It is not unusual for babies to be born with jaundice. This is a mild condition that causes the skin and whites of the eyes to turn yellow. In addition to yellow skin and white sclerae, the baby may also have dark-colored urine or light stools. The jaundice is caused by an elevation in bilirubin, which is a yellow substance that is present in bile. Neonatal jaundice, also known as neonatal hyperbilirubinemia, is considered a benign condition; however, the pediatric physician may recommend the following interventions while your baby is still in the hospital to help bring down the bilirubin.
To lower your baby's serum bilirubin so that jaundice resolves, the pediatric physician may order phototherapy for the child. Phototherapy is a treatment that uses special lights to break down bilirubin. Babies undergoing phototherapy treatments always have their eyes covered with special protective patches so that they are not exposed to the bright lights.
Your child's pediatrician will periodically order serum bilirubin blood tests throughout the course of the baby's phototherapy treatment. Once the bilirubin level is within normal limits, the physician will discontinue the phototherapy so that your baby can be discharged from the hospital.
Maintain Adequate Hydration
It is essential that babies who have hyperbilirubinemia maintain adequate hydration because fluids can help lower bilirubin levels and decrease jaundice. The hospital nurses may monitor your baby's intake and output so that the pediatrician can determine if the baby is receiving enough hydration.
If the baby's urinary output is low, it may mean that he or she is not taking in enough fluids, either through breastfeeding or from baby formula. If the baby is unable to consume enough fluids orally, the physician may recommend intravenous fluid therapy.
If the infant's bilirubin remains elevated despite an increase in fluids and phototherapy, the doctor may order certain diagnostic tests. These tests may include serum liver enzymes to determine if the baby has a congenital liver disorder. If the liver enzyme tests are normal, it may mean that the baby has an infection, which could also increase bilirubin levels.
If you have questions or concerns regarding your baby's jaundice, talk to the pediatric physician or the neonatal nurses while you are still in the hospital. Neonatal hyperbilirubinemia is very common and easily treatable, especially in its early stages. With the proper treatment, your baby's bilirubin level will quickly normalize, leaving no lasting health effects.